The chance to go on a visit to Amritsar as part of an interfaith pilgrimage is not something that comes along everyday, so when Dr Andrew Smith from the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre received the invitation he started packing immediately.
The visit gave us a chance to visit some of the most sacred sites Sikhism and to visit them in the company of Sikhs for whom this was a very significant spiritual journey. We had the privilege of being in Amritsar for Diwali and to share in the celebrations of that day. We also visited Sultanpur, the site where Guru Nanak meditated and where in 1496 he stepped into the waters of the river Bein and disappeared. After three days he returned with a divine glow and started his mission to fight hypocrisy, preach the word of God and show people how to live in peace.
The trip also included a visit to Anandpur and the site of the first Amrit ceremony in 1699 and the foundation of the Khalsa.
As well as visiting the sites there was also much chance for discussion around faith and belief, interesting resonances between faiths were explored such as the experience of exile and the way that can lead to growth and the nature and response of a call to live a holy life. As our friendships grew during the week we were also able to discuss issues that we disagree on, including profound questions about where we have come from, where we are going and what we are called to do? Whether one beliefs people are created in the womb or reincarnated or their soul has transmigrated leads to very different understandings of humanity and the human condition. The depth of discussion led to new insights and scope for much deeper discussions in the future.
Our thanks go to the leaders and volunteers from GNNSJ in Birmingham who organised and hosted this fascinating visit.